The following article is based on one in Wikipedia.
Markham was named by the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, for his friend, William Markham (1719–1807), Archbishop of York.
Markham was first surveyed as a township in 1793 by William Berczy, who in the following year led 75 German families including the Ramers, Reesors, Wheters, Burkholders, Bunkers, Wicks and Lewis from upstate New York to an area of Markham now known as German Mills where they established a sawmill. Each family was granted 200 acres of land; however due lack to roads in the region many opted to settle in York (now Toronto) and Niagara. With the unwillingness of the inhabitants to settle, German Mills eventually became a ghost town.
Between 1803 to 1812, another attempt at settling in the region was made. The largest group of settlers were Pennsylvania Dutch, most of whom were Mennonites. These highly skilled craftsmen and knowledgeable farmers were able to settle the region and founded Reesorville (later the village of Markham), named after settler Joseph Reesor, and other hamlets and villages. By 1830, a large influx of Irish, Scottish and English families began immigrating to Upper Canada, many settling in Markham.
Markham's early years blended the rigours of homesteading with the development of agriculture-based industries. The many rivers and streams in the township soon supported water-powered saw and gristmills and later wooden mills. With improved transportation routes, such as the construction of Yonge Street, along with the growing population, urbanization increased. In 1842 the township population was 5700 and more than 29000 acres were under cultivation (second highest in the province). The township had eleven gristmills and twenty-four sawmills. By 1857, most of the township had been cleared of timber and was under cultivation. Villages like Thornhill, Unionville, and Markham greatly expanded. In 1871, with a township population of more than 8000, the Toronto and Nipissing Railway built the first rail line to Markham Village and Unionville. The line is still used today by the GO Transit commuter services.
Markham Township continued to grow through the remainder of the 19th century and early 20th centuries. It remained fairly agricultural until after WW2 when the population of Toronto started to move northward and modern industries became established in more rural areas.
In 1971 York County was abolished and replaced by the Regional Municipality of York (commonly known as York Region). At this time the townships making up the county were reorganized as towns and some boundaries were altered. Thornhill, which had always been considered to be geographically in Markham became independent. The border with Whitchurch was redrawn so that Stouffville was completely within the new town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. Markham Village merged with the township. In 2012 the new Town of Markham became the City of Markham.
Ontario GenWeb has a sketchmap of the original townships of York County and York GenWeb provides another sketchmap of the equivalent municipalities in York Region (established 1971). Note that after 1971 the boundaries of the towns of Newmarket, Aurora and Richmond Hill are defined. These towns were all separately incorporated from the townships many years before that date, but none would have had such a large geographical footprint.
The map of York County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, city, towns and villages of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books